What are Diamond Enhancements Actually Enhancing?

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Part 1: Clarity Enhancements

At Diamond Lighthouse, we’ve had a lot of people asking about “enhanced” diamonds. Whether they’re color treated or clarity enhanced, people want to know what it means, and if it will affect how much they can sell it for. The answer is that though these treatments can make a low-quality diamond look a lot better, they don’t increase the value of a diamond by much, and in some cases, make them much harder to sell. But before we get to that, let’s explain exactly what these treatments are and why they’re performed.

Why does a diamond need enhancing?
Diamonds, being a natural rock that forms deep in the Earth’s core, are rarely perfect. Most diamonds have some kind of flaw. The fewer visible flaws there are, the more valuable the diamond is. The same goes for color. The less color a diamond has (with the exception of certain fancy color diamonds), the more money it will sell for. That’s only the case for natural diamonds though. Diamond enhancements make a diamond appear to have fewer flaws, or appear to have a better color, but since the flaws are still there, the value typically won’t increase. That’s why both the World Jewelry Confederation and the United States Federal Trade Commission require all diamond treatments to be disclosed at the time of sale.

What are clarity enhancements?
Clarity enhancements are treatments that are done to either get rid of or minimize the appearance of blemishes or inclusions. (A blemish is a flaw on the surface of the diamond, and an inclusion is a flaw that reaches the inside of the diamond.) There are two different types of clarity treatments: laser drilling and fracture filling. (They rhyme!) Both address different flaws and both have drastically different effects on the diamond.

Let’s start with laser drilling:

Laser drilling is performed when there’s a visible inclusion, usually a black carbon crystal, in the diamond. The process involves using a laser to bore a microscopic hole into the diamond to reach the inclusion. The diamond is then soaked in boiling acid, which dissolves and bleaches the inclusion. The acid does not affect the diamond in any way. After this process, the inclusion will either be colorless, or a very faint cloudy white. Another method of laser drilling involves using a different kind of laser to heat the inclusion until it expands. This slightly expands the natural cracks already in the diamond instead of creating new holes. Ideally, this is less noticeable than traditional laser drilling.

Unlike Fracture Filling, which we’ll get to later, laser drilling is a permanent enhancement. The inclusions will never reappear. Because of that, the Gemological Institute of America will still grade a diamond that has been laser drilled. The gemologist will just make a note on the diamond’s grading report that the diamond has been laser drilled.

Disadvantages of laser drilling:
While a laser drilled diamond may receive a slightly better clarity grade than it would have with the crystal inclusion, the drill hole is considered a different type of inclusion. Although, a microscopic hole that you can’t see is arguably preferable to a black crystal that you can see. The resale value will likely be higher than it was before, but lower than a similar-looking diamond that didn’t have to be drilled. For example, if laser drilling improved a diamond’s clarity from I2 to SI2, it would be worth less than a natural SI2 diamond that didn’t have to be drilled. Also, for diamonds with multiple inclusions, a different hole has to be drilled for each one. The holes aren’t visible to the naked eye, but each one decreases the structural integrity of the diamond, making it slightly more fragile. Under normal use, this shouldn’t make a difference. If you’re going to be doing things where the diamond might get hit (rock climbing, playing baseball, stopping doors from closing, etc.), then structural integrity might be more of a concern.

Laser drilled diamonds are also significantly harder to sell. Diamond buyers are generally wary of laser drilled diamonds. Some even refuse to buy or sell them. If you’re sure you’re never going to sell the diamond, a laser-drilled diamond is fine. Any drill holes or other flaws will be invisible to the naked eye, and the diamond will be significantly cheaper than similar diamonds that haven’t been drilled. Just be aware that you are technically buying a lower-quality diamond. If you ever want to upgrade, finding a buyer will be difficult, and you’ll get a much lower price for it than you would otherwise.

So what is Fracture filling?
This is what people are usually referring to when they say a diamond’s been “Clarity Enhanced.” Fracture filling is an impermanent clarity enhancement that hides feathers—white fractures that sometimes appear in diamonds. The process involves injecting silicon into a diamond so that it fills and hides the little fractures. Hence the name.

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Disadvantages of Fracture Filling:
So what’s the problem? The silicon is not nearly as tough as diamond. If you ever want to get your diamond polished or professionally cleaned, pretty much anything that involves the diamond being exposed to jewelers’ fire or acid, the silicon will melt and the feathers will reappear. Because the treatment is so impermanent, the GIA will not grade fracture filled diamonds. This is why jewelers are legally required to tell buyers whether or not a diamond has been clarity enhanced at the time of sale.

It’s also why most buyers refuse to deal in clarity enhanced diamonds, and why Diamond Lighthouse will not sell them. With a fracture filled diamond, you don’t know what you’re getting. It could be a single hairline fracture, or it could be a whole series of feathers. There’s often no way to tell until you get it polished and see how different it looks when you get it back. Diamonds that have been Clarity Enhanced in this way are a bad deal for buyers and sellers alike. Even if you never intend to sell the diamond, it’s likely that you’ll want to get it polished or at the very least professionally cleaned. Chances are you’ll be more than a little disappointed when you get back a completely different looking diamond.

Diamond Lighthouse does not deal in fracture filled diamonds. However, if you have a laser-drilled diamond you’re looking to sell, Diamond Lighthouse will get you the best price. Finding someone willing to buy laser drilled diamonds can be difficult. That’s why Diamond Lighthouse does the work for you. With our exclusive network of expert buyers and dealers in the diamond industry, we’ll connect you with a buyer who will pay the most for your diamonds, laser drilled or not. Because we only take a commission (10% on diamonds 1 carat and higher) after you’ve agreed to a final sale price, we’re motivated to get you the best price possible. Finding a buyer for laser drilled diamonds is hard work. Let Diamond Lighthouse take care of it for you.

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